August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month. There are many aspects of breastfeeding that mothers should be aware of, but one of the most important things to know is how personal nutrition and diet can impact the baby.
Maj. Saunya Bright is the nutrition consultant for Air Combat Command and a mother of three. She said “choosing a healthy balanced diet, having a healthy lifestyle, ensuring one is taking prenatal supplements, and increasing one’s nutrient requirements” are all important when breastfeeding.
According to Bright, mothers should be taking in upwards of 400 extra calories a day while pregnant and preparing to breastfeed. “I don’t think people appreciate that all the time,” Bright said. “They try to restrict in an effort to lose weight, but while breastfeeding restricting calories is not a wise choice. You’re not eating for two adults. Four hundred more calories a day is the equivalent of a ham and cheese sandwich with a cup of skim milk.”
A healthy and balanced diet produces quality breast milk for the baby, so all of the calorie intake, even the extra ones, should come from nutritious sources.
“There should be a wide variety of food from all the food groups,” Bright said. “The goal would be to focus on lean meats, low fat or non-fat dairy products, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains breads and cereals.”
Bright said a mother’s daily diet should include 6 ounces of protein, 7 ounces of whole grain foods, 3 cups of dairy and 3 cups each of fruits and vegetables. People who don’t eat meat can get their protein from eggs, lentils or dry beans. And any dairy consumed should be low fat and fortified with calcium and Vitamin D. While this all might seem pretty standard for any healthy diet, new mothers need to be much more aware of what a bad diet can mean.
“It impacts the quality of the breast milk, the nutrient content,” Bright side. “If it’s a poor quality diet, it could affect growth and development because they aren’t getting the nutrients they need. If the diet is poor it can affect milk production as a whole.”
Moms should also be wary of particularly strong foods, especially foods that are spicy or gassy or have strong spices like garlic.
“They will know almost instantly once they’re nursing whether or not something they ate is agreeable to the baby,” she said. “There are instances where moms can have some of those foods when they’re cooked or steamed well, but if they have them raw it will affect the nursing baby.”
Bright mentioned other substances that moms should avoid, such as: excessive amounts of caffeine, alcohol, and too much fish or shellfish because of the mercury content.
There are several resources Bright recommends for breastfeeding mothers who need more information:
http://www.eatright.org/ - the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
http://www.acog.org/ - The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
http://www.llli.org/ - La Leche League International, a support group for breastfeeding mothers